Posts Tagged ‘Maxine Peake’

“PETERLOO” My rating: C

154 minutes | MPAA rating: PG-13

Mike Leigh’s “Peterloo” is less a film drama than it is an illustrated history lesson.

That’s a problem.

Leigh, who always has had a thing for life’s underdogs, here turns his attention to a notorious bit of British history. The 1819 massacre at St. Peter’s Field in Manchester, England, found His Majesty’s sword-waving cavalry riding into a crowd of peaceful demonstrators protesting for political reform.

The violence doesn’t rear its ugly head until late in this 2-hour, 33-minute effort.  Most of Leigh’s screenplay is devoted to eavesdropping on  a dozen or so characters who represent various attitudes and political viewpoints in the months before the bloody incident.

Thus we follow a shellshocked trumpeter from the Battle of Waterloo (David Moorst) who returns home to Manchester to find jobs are scare and respect for a former soldier nonexistent. We sit in on long, talky meetings in which various agitators rail against miserable working conditions, low pay, and  a political/economic system designed to grind the country’s have-nots into the ground while enriching the altready-haves.

(Karl Marx was only a year old at the time, but he undoubtedly grew up aware of the the Manchester massacre.)

We witness a mother and wife haggling over the price of a few eggs with which to feed her family. We observe men slaving in a steam-driven textile factory where one misstep can mean a crushed limb. And  journalists debating how to convey to the common reader what the government’s suspension of habeas corpus means to the individual.


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